BusinessCorporate FinanceOn the money with Alex Hawkes

On the money with Alex Hawkes

I wonder what all those business leaders are thinking now about the NatWest Three?

alex hawkes

You’ll remember that a whole host of them signed a petition complaining about
the extradition of the trio, who last week pleaded guilty to charges of fraud as
part of a plea-bargain, earning them a shorter sentence.

Among them was our own Eric Anstee, then chief executive of the ICAEW. What
does he think now?

And what of Sir Digby Jones, who urged, alongside Anstee, that the government
has signed a ‘manifestly unfair extradition treaty’ with the US? That would be
his government now.

It is always awkward to take a position on cases like this. I argued that
when the row was at its height, there was something a little bit funny about
appearing to back business people accused of serious (Enron-related) fraud.

Of course, those who backed the NatWest Three will say they were making a
point about extradition, that the treaty situation was wrong regardless of the
rights and wrongs of the Enron case itself.

I expect they might also say that the US exerted so much pressure on the trio
to go for the plea bargain that it wouldn’t have mattered whether they were
innocent or not.

They had to plead guilty to avoid a lifetime of litigation and an
unpredictable US court process.

There’s no real answer to that, other than that it is hugely disappointing
for those of us interested in the case that it never came to court.

We only have the US charge sheet to go by and no evidence of why the three
insisted so unrelentingly that they were innocent.

It would have been nice to have seen how those arguments played out in court.

Alex Hawkes is news editor of Accountancy Age

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